July is the month that teachers get to be teachers without students.
I’ve now been to five cities over the course of the last month, and saw nothing but teachers working on developing themselves as professionals and people. What’s missing in the debate over extended time in schools and summers in American schools is the lack of time teachers get to spend not worrying about the students in their care. Building time into the school week is one thing, having independent time a whole nother. During the school year, meeting with teachers helps because we can address immediate needs and concerns, make adjustments, and decompress for a second before we have to get back on the train that is the school year.
Summer, by sharp contrast, allows us to take a time out from bells, alarms, phone calls, and the hundreds of other internal and external interruptions we face as teachers and get down to business as adults. This summer, I’ve seen teachers still keep students in mind, but talk about long-term curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, teacher leadership, and all the great stuff that gets piled on our shoulders while we’re still trying to manage our class load.
Maybe we need to rethink the idea of “summers off” as a summer to unpack and refuel.
The United States already eclipses the rest of the world in time in front of students. We ought to love them (because I know I do), but my time might be better spent if policymakers didn’t keep trying to force time down our throats. We’re not babysitters, despite policy evidence to the contrary. So much of our work depends on taking time away from students to be the best teachers possible.
And, if we don’t actually want to do anything during summer? We shouldn’t be shamed for that, either. We only have two months to be our full, multilayered, and less responsible selves. To do teaching well does require a super-human effort, so if we’re just given a chance to beregular humans, we’re all the better for it come the beginning of the school year.
Summer-shaming is a thing, and I’d rather not engage in it, because when someone calls me Jose in the middle of a week day, I don’t have to correct them until at least September.